Saints 2021 schedule previews: Week 1 vs. Green Bay Packers

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The New Orleans Saints are set to open the 2021 NFL season with a highly anticipated Week 1 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, with or without Aaron Rodgers. A year ago, this would have been a classic battle of two future Hall of Future quarterbacks in Rodgers versus Drew Brees. The spotlight, however, remains firmly on the question marks under center for both teams in this meeting.

No opening game better allegorizes the defining theme of this offseason: quarterback controversy. Rodgers is still away from Green Bay, putting his backup Jordan Love front and center. And Brees will be replaced by either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. It remains to be seen who will headline the opener, but the true mystery, no matter the Saints’ Week 1 starter, will be their dueling opponent.

New Orleans will be seeking vindication for their 37-30 loss to Green Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last season; the crucial tiebreaker cost the Saints a first-round bye that may have been the difference-maker in their playoff run.

Game Information

Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Everything you need to know:

  • When: 3:25 p.m. CT, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021

  • Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.

  • TV: FOX

  • Line: Saints -3 (BetMGM)

Expectations for Green Bay

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus opinion is that Rodgers will eventually concede and remain under center for the team that drafted him back in 2005. New England Patriots fans likely felt similarly dismissive of boredom-driven offseason chatter last year with Tom Brady -- and should serve as a strong cautionary tale. The problem is, Rodgers’ decision has no consequent effect on Green Bay’s expectations this season. Should Rodgers return, it’s simple: Super Bowl or bust. While the Packers organization has been marred by questionable decision-making, those decision-makers have done nothing but express confidence in Love as an alternative. Unless you ask oddsmakers, who project a mediocre 9-8 finish in this year's win totals.

Key Additions

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Free Agency

The Packers remained quiet in free agency, instead retaining their own talent by smartly re-signed running back Aaron Jones to a four-year, $48 million-dollar contract; he ensures consistency in an otherwise murky backfield. But most notable are the three quarterback signings: Blake Bortles, Jake Dolegala, and Kurt Benkert. If you thought the Saints had a crowded quarterback room, Green Bay clearly is attempting due diligence, though quantity doesn’t necessarily signify quality. Bortles is the only quarterback who has a chance at holding the clipboard.

NFL Draft

  • First round, 29th overall: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia

  • Second round, 62nd overall: OL Josh Myers, Ohio State

  • Third round, 85th overall: WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson

After potentially blowing up the team by trading up for a quarterback in lieu of a receiver last year, Elijah Moore should have been the easy pick. Prospects like Tyson Campbell and Asante Samuel Jr. were similarly available – all largely seen as Day 2 picks. Instead, they added a corner to pair with Jaire Alexander. Green Bay needed a versatile interior lineman after the departure of center Corey Linsey in free agency, and indeed traded up for a potentially lethal slot receiver in the third round. Rodgers has drawn comparisons to Randall Cobb, another successful slot weapon in recent Packers history.

Key Losses

There were some notable departures in free agency including Linsley and backup running back Jamaal Williams, but the greatest loss for Green Bay is a sense of cohesion and trust. Should Aaron Rodgers stay, where does that leave Jordan Love’s career? What incentive does he have to see out his contract through 2024? If Love eventually ends up under center, will he be able to do anything but look over Rodgers' shoulder until his rookie contract expires? Rodgers put it best: “People make an organization. People make a business, and sometimes that gets forgotten.”

Series History and Preview

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While Green Bay holds a 17-9 all-time record in their in their series history with the Saints, New Orleans has gone 4-2 against the Packers under Sean Payton. It’s unfortunate that the final game featuring Rodgers and Brees saw both teams without their star receiver: Davante Adams and Michael Thomas. The difference-maker was Allen Lazard, whose 146 receiving yards far surpassed every other game last season; his second-highest single-game yardage (63) was torched in a singular 72-yd reception. This year may feature Adams and Thomas, but all eyes will be on who’s throwing to them. Jordan Love will not have a warm NFL welcoming from Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, and Payton Turner. The question is whether New Orleans faces an angry Rodgers starting a revenge tour. The team is somewhat infamous for slow starts; a last-second Wil Lutz 58-yard field goal in 2019 led to a 1-0 start for the first time in five years. Without Brees at the helm, it's uncertain whether they can avoid more poor season-opening performances. Gannett may earn revenue from audience referrals to betting services. Newsrooms are independent of this relationship and there is no influence on news coverage.

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